The Upside-Down Kingdom

Open Your Bible

Matthew 5:1-20, Matthew 5:33-48, Matthew 20:26-28, Philippians 2:3-8, Psalm 15:1-5

My daughter, Karis, and I strolled the aisles of Lowe’s, deciding which fruit we wanted to plant in a new potted garden. What might taste delicious in the middle of summer? I chose a thornless blackberry bush, and my kindergartner joyfully grabbed a strawberry seedling. We brought home a bag of potting soil and two plastic pots made to look like cast iron, and Karis softly covered the roots with her mini-me hand shovel. 

For the next several months, she doted every day with her cup of water to ensure the soil stayed within the perfect moisture level. And then sure enough, one summer afternoon, she ran into the house with a mouth full of red sweetness and a shout of glee, “We did it, mom! We did it! I just ate a strawberry!” I hugged her—and then it hit me. The seeds buried in the soil had to break open and die to bear fruit. It’s strange. To live its purpose, a seed needs to become a buried sacrifice.

But this is the way of the kingdom, is it not? The seeds echo biblical truth like a tiny parable. To live, we die. To walk the way of the kingdom, we serve. After all, Jesus—the author and perfecter of our faith—“did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). 

Maybe the modern-day parable of the strawberry seed is right after all. The sweetest fruit comes from sacrifice—an upside-down image for an upside-down kingdom. 

Blessed are the poor in spirit, the humble, and those who mourn. Blessed are the merciful, the peacemakers, the persecuted—because the kingdom of heaven will be theirs. They will inherit the earth—with all the wild strawberry and blackberry bushes (Matthew 5:3–10).

Recently, I saw a story of the upside-down kingdom lived out in a modern way in an animated Torchlighters film about Jim Elliot. He and a group of men gave their lives in service for the kingdom of God by working to reach a tribe that had never heard the gospel. Unfortunately, their work cost them their lives as the Ecuadorian tribe felt threatened by their presence and killed them. 

Later, however, the tribe came to the saving knowledge of the gospel through the continued work of the women on their mission team. Jim Elliot is known to have said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” 

May we live with this same humility— like Christ, who being God, emptied Himself to the point of death so we might live (Philippians 2:5–8). May the seed of our lives serve others—at school, at home, or during the long zoom meeting—bearing much fruit, more valuable than an orchard full of strawberries.

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38 thoughts on "The Upside-Down Kingdom"

  1. Linnea C says:

    When you bury a seed you don’t forget about it- you trust that something will happen, is happening, even though you can’t see it. You water it, make sure it’s in the best environment for growth- care for it. You wait with anticipation knowing all your efforts are not what actually makes it sprout- but oh the joy when it does, and then joy joy joy as it continues to grow and blossom. You know you are seeing a miracle and you can’t explain it but your faith grows along with it. Father, help me bury all my worries and the things that consume me in YOUR soil- that I may know and understand your greatness and your love more each moment of my life here. If I keep burying my seeds- just think of the garden YOU are growing!

  2. Rhonda J. says:

    I don’t think the phrase “living in an upside down world” has ever made more sense to me than in today’s climate. Things I never thought would be acceptable are the norm. It’s not because I’m OLD as my nephew would say cheeky, it’s because my walk with the Lord is closer than ever! I am in the word every day and it makes sense to me now how the Lord wants us to live our lives different from the world. It’s the story as old as Genesis, we want to live as we see fit, and the world sees fit…but with the Holy Spirit we will have a way to battle our sin and conquer- Thank God! It’s no longer “my truth” it is the LORD”S truth!

    It feels so good to know I am not the only wife in the midst of the frustration with my spouse, and mainly that you are in prayer WITH me! Thank you dear sisters!!

    You are still in my thoughts @Dorthy as you navigate the celebration funeral for your dear sister and also the challenges with Jake.

    Matthew 5:3-11 is one of my memorization scriptures this year! I am so bad at retaining!! lol! BUT there is a song by Elevation Worship “This is the Kingdom” so you can sing these verses!! So helpful. I try to sing it before falling asleep at night in my mind.

    Hoping you all have a wonderful Tuesday! (prayers for my back pain please and to find some relief!) I Have an MRI this Thursday, and then go to see a new Pain Management doctor in May! I have lots of hardware and scar tissue from being fused from scoliosis when I was 13. The nerve damage down my left leg is from a spinal cord injury when they screwed in the new hardware in a revision 18 years ago. There never seems to be many answers, I usually get “it is what it is” at this point except drugs to mask. I might prayerfully consider the electrical stimulator now that I am not as active. (How did I ramble as usual??)

  3. Candace Smith says:

    ❤️

  4. Cee Gee says:

    SEANA SCOTT- Thank you for this beautiful devotional! So much richness in today’s passages, too!

    SEARCHING – Amen. ❤

  5. Mary Walsh says:

    I pray that I may die more and more each day – so that Christ may live through me. Sacrifice, selflessness, love for those who do not and will not love in return. One of my regular prayers is that the Lord would make me small each day…that I would see my smallness in light of His greatness. My nature is to magnify myself. This is NOT the Kingdom way. Even Christ humbled himself to the point of death.

  6. Kimberly Z says:

    What a great sacrifice that was made for all us and a beautiful reminder of Gods love for us. I pray we can all live in humility serving the Lord every day. Happy Tuesday

  7. Jeanie Mclellan says:

    Amen

  8. Kyle Hopkins says:

    If you’re interested in the Jim Elliot story, his wife, Elizabeth Elliot, wrote about it using letters and journal entries in her book, “Through the Gates of Splendor.” This book I listened to during my months of chemotherapy- it gave me strength and hope.